Arlington pools, splash pads closed after possible brain-eating amoeba detected

Arlington has closed all public splash pads and swimming pools until further notice after a sample from one facility showed the possible presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, also known as a brain-eating amoeba, according to a news release from the city Wednesday.

Drinking water in Arlington is not affected, according to the news release.

The city said a voluntary federal study detected the possible presence of the amoeba at California Lane Park’s splash pad. The notice about the possible brain-eating amoeba’s presence was sent to the city Tuesday.

This comes after the city earlier this year settled a lawsuit with the family of Bakari Williams, the 3-year-old killed by a brain-eating amoeba in 2021. The lawsuit settlement included the implementation of the Bakari Williams protocols, which requires the city to take extra precautions in dealing with safety at splash pads and pools.

The city said it has not been notified of any current illnesses or hospitalizations linked to city facilities.

A review of chlorine levels at the California Lane Park splash pad showed that the levels were consistently within acceptable ranges, according to the news release.

The city noted in its news release that infections of Naegleria fowleri are rare, but advised anybody who has visited the California Lane Park splash pad to seek medical attention immediately if they experience a sudden fever, headache, vomiting or stiff neck. Infections usually come from diving or swimming in fresh warm water like that in lakes or rivers.

While there are treatments to combat a Naegleria fowleri infection, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention lists the death rate of infections at 97%.

Arlington’s public splash pads have been closed since Tuesday, with all outdoor public pools shut down since Sunday and the East indoor pool closed Wednesday. They will all remain closed until further notice.

The Bakari Williams protocols that resulted from a lawsuit filed by Bakari’s family include requirements that the city use automated water chemistry controllers with advanced sensors, manually test water at public pools and splash pads three times daily, keep chlorine levels between 1.5 parts per million and 5 ppm for splash pads, hire additional trained staff as certified pool operators and include QR codes on signs at all aquatics facilities to allow visitors to check up-to-date water quality information on their phones.

The improvements to safety at pools and splash pads cost the city around $650 million.